The striking thing about Osama bin Laden’s death is how utterly depressing it is.
Is there really anything to celebrate here?
Have the victims of the September 11 attacks suddenly come back to life? How about the hundreds of thousands of people (possibly over a million) killed in wars we justified based on Sept. 11?
Are any of our wars ending any time soon? (I mean a real end, not this bullshit about “timetables” and “horizons” and “ending combat operations.”)
Are we going to end the Guantánamo prison camp and free the innocent men held there?
Is the NSA going to stop spying on us?
Are we going to redirect military and police-state funds toward schools, healthcare, and infrastructure?
Are our civil liberties coming back?
Have future terrorists been deterred from martyrdom?
Was it really worth it to give Osama bin Laden the fate he wanted all along? In the near future, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of demonization of the antiwar movement — after all, they would have let Osama get away. Because everyone who was killed or maimed by US troops and contractors (and by our allies), everyone who was tortured (some of them tortured to death), and everyone who was raped (or gang-raped and murdered) is insignificant compared to one fanatic in a compound in Pakistan. (I won’t even begin to detail the vast opportunity costs of our immense military budget.)
The American propaganda system requires that we see bin Laden as merely a cartoon villain, instead of a family man who loved poetry, volleyball, and horses. Yet it simultaneously requires us to humanize the men and women who plan and carry out American war crimes: we know all about Obama’s struggle to quit smoking, his practical jokes, his light saber skills, his Portuguese water dog, and so forth, and many of us have read at least some of that totally masturbatory memoir he wrote. Are some human lives more valuable than others? Are some of the bloodthirsty psychopaths who engage in the wanton destruction of innocent human lives more human than others?
The propaganda system also requires that we glorify the obedient Navy SEALs and CIA agents who killed bin Laden. But there is nothing heroic in America’s murderous foreign policy. The real heroes are still people like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning who have revealed some of the truth about our actions and motivations (and why it took us so long to find bin Laden).